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Feast of Lots

What Is Purim?

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Purim or Feast of Lots

Jews read the Book of Esther on Purim.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Feast of Lots - Purim:

The Feast of Lots, or Purim, commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people through the heroism of Queen Esther in Persia. The name Purim, or "lots," was most likely given to this festival in a sense of irony, because Haman, the enemy of the Jews, had plotted against them to completely destroy them by casting the lot (Esther 9:24). Today Jews not only celebrate this great deliverance on Purim, but also the continued survival of the Jewish race.

Time of Observance:

Today Purim is celebrated on day 14 of the Hebrew month of Adar (February or March). Originally Purim was established as a two-day observance (Esther 9:27).

• See Bible Feasts Calendar for actual dates.

Scripture Reference:

The story of Purim is recorded in the Old Testament book of Esther.

About Purim:

During his third year of reign over the Persian Empire, King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) was ruling from his royal throne in the city of Susa (southwestern Iran), and he held a banquet for all his nobles and officials. When summoned to appear before him, his beautiful wife, Queen Vashti, refused to come. As a result she was forever banished from the King's presence, and a new Queen was sought from among the most beautiful young virgins of the kingdom.

Mordecai, a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, had been living as an exile in Susa at the time. He had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had adopted and raised as his own daughter after her parents had died. Hadassah, or Esther, meaning "star" in Persian, was lovely in form and features, and she found favor in the eyes of the King and was chosen among hundreds of women to become Queen in the place of Vashti.

Meanwhile, Mordecai uncovered a plot to have the King assassinated and told his cousin Queen Esther about it. She in turn, reported the news to the King, and gave the credit to Mordecai.

Later on Haman, an evil man, was given the highest seat of honor by the King, but Mordecai refused to kneel down and pay him honor. This greatly angered Haman, and knowing that Mordecai was a Jew, a member of the race he hated, Haman began to plot a way to destroy all of the Jews throughout Persia. Haman convinced King Xerxes to issue a decree for their annihilation.

Up until this time, Queen Esther had kept her Jewish heritage a secret from the King. Now Mordecai encouraged her to go into the King's presence and beg for mercy on behalf of the Jews.

Believing that God had prepared her for this very moment in history—"for such a time as this"—as a vessel of deliverance for her people, Esther urged all of the Jews in the city to fast and pray for her. She was about to risk her own life to request an audience with the King.

When she appeared before King Xerxes he was pleased to listen to Esther and grant whatever request she might have. When Esther revealed her identity as a Jew and then pleaded for her own life and the lives of her people, the King became enraged with Haman and had him and his sons hanged on the gallows (or impaled on a wooden pole).

King Xerxes reversed his previous order to have the Jewish people destroyed, and gave Jews the right to assemble and protect themselves. Mordecai then received a place of honor in the King's palace as second in rank and encouraged all Jews to participate in an annual celebration of feasting and joy, in remembrance of this great salvation and turn of events. By Queen Esther's official decree, these days were established as a lasting custom called Purim, or the Feast of Lots.

• Learn more about Purim Customs and Celebrations.

Jesus and the Feast of Lots:

Purim is a celebration of God's faithfulness, deliverance and protection. Although the Jews were sentenced to death by King Xerxes' original decree, through Queen Esther's courageous intervention and willingness to face death, the people's lives were spared. Similarly, all of us who have sinned have been issued a decree of death, but through the intervention of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the old decree has been satisfied and a new proclamation of eternal life has been established:

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)

More Facts About Purim

  • Purim is still joyously celebrated today among Jews with the reading of entire book of Esther in the synagogue. Using noisemakers, people loudly cheer at the mention of Mordecai's name and sounds of hissing, stamping of feet and booing can be heard when Haman's name is spoken.
  • Hamantashen is a traditional Jewish treat eaten during Purim. It has three corners and represents Haman's hat.
  • It is common to see Purim plays reenacting the story of Esther on Purim. Street parades and carnivals have also become popular, and people dress up in costumes symbolizing Esther's concealed identity.
  • Jews are required on Purim to give gifts to the poor.
  • More about Purim.

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